Must See Illinois State Parks for Your Adventure List

Skyscrapers, financial capital, political hub… All you hear about when someone talks about the “Land of Lincoln”.


Located in the midwestern US bordering Indiana in the east and the Mississippi River in the west, the state is home to some of the largest cities in the country namely Chicago, Springfield, and Rockford.  


Whatever experience you’re looking for you’ll find in Illinois state! With a vast network of state parks, the Prairie State doesn't fail to impress either when it comes to nature exploration, adventure, and recreation. The heartland of America where great lakes meet great lands is counted as having one of the most unique landscapes and rarest ecosystems.



Starved Rock State Park

Starved Rock State Park Illinois

Starved Rock State Park


Situated near the coast of the Illinois river, Starved Rock state park extends over 2,630 acres to the southeast of village Utica. Numbers suggest that about two million people enjoy this park every year with the center attraction being the famous outcrops of St. Peter Sandstone. 


The breathtaking vistas look exceptionally beautiful in the spring season, especially after heavy rainfalls. With miles of the trail network in the park that are waiting to be explored, adventure enthusiasts are most attracted to this diverse terrain. The riverbank on the edge of the park creates enjoyable opportunities for visitors including fishing, boating, and spectacular views, making it a perfect place to relax. 


Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park

Located a few miles south of the famous Starved Rock State Park is another fascinating landscape best suited for people interested in geology. Situated to the south of village Utica, Matthiessen State Park is a meeting point for canyons, creeks, grasslands, and woodlands. A stream also flows through the park creating many phenomenal outcrops. 


Unusual rock formations are the beauty of this park along with abundant vegetation. Besides being home to many species of mosses and ferns, unusual wildlife makes it a much more interesting place to visit. A paradise on its own, the park offers many recreational activities including picnic spots, campgrounds, sightseeing, and more.


Shawnee National Forest

Shawnee State Park IllinoisShawnee National Forest

Located in the Ozark and Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest expands approximately over 280,000 acres of managed lands in the area of Northwestern Pope County, administered and maintained by the USDA Forest Service. 


Famous for its Jackson Falls spot, the park welcomes adventure enthusiasts to experience rock climbing and speed climbing. With no exception to its wilderness and mild weather throughout the year, the topography of the Forest includes undulating hills, woodlands, open areas, lakes, creeks, and steep cliffs. Nestled in the foothills of Pikes peak, the park is also famous for preserving Garden of the Gods’ unique red rock formations explored through 403 miles of hiking trails.

Garden of the Gods IllinoisGarden of the Gods

Illinois Beach State Park

Illinois Beach State Park

Illinois Beach State Park

Stretching six and a half miles alongside Lake Michigan, the sandy shores from Waukegan to the Wisconsin state line are preserved under Illinois Beach State Park. A one-of-a-kind, awe-inspiring natural wonder for anyone to enjoy near Lake Michigan's shoreline, the park is well-known for its geological structure, unusual vegetation, breathtaking beauty, and recreational activities.


Covering the region of 4,160 acres, the park is divided into two units hosting a multitude of recreational opportunities ranging from swimming, boating, and picnicking to hiking, sightseeing, and camping.


Giant City State Park

Giant City State Park - Illinois

Giant City State Park

In the regions of Jackson and Union counties stands the magnificent Giant City State Park. Extending over an area of 4,000 acres the park is breathtakingly beautiful and is a perfect day-trip spot for the people of Illinois. 


There is no count for the number of recreational activities this park has to offer; from camping to horseback riding and from fishing to rappelling, there is no end to the fun and delight to participate in while visiting this park. With miles of hiking trails, massive sandstone structures, and geology like none other, this park is an ideal place for people who seek thrilling day-cations full of adventure and relaxation. 


Rock Cut State Park

Rock Cut State Park - Illinois

Rock Cut State Park 

Found near Rockford in the region of Winnebago County, Rock Cut State Park expands over 3,092 acres blanketing the two lakes, Olson and Pierce Lake. With 250 yards of swimming beach, rocky landmarks for exploration, and miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding, adventure awaits people of all ages at Rock Cut State Park, to enjoy a getaway from everyday life. 


Due to the moist climate and neighboring lakes, the park is abundant with natural vegetation and wildlife. 


Pere Marquette State Park

Pere Marquette State Park - Illinois
Pere Marquette State Park

 

Here comes the big king! Pere Marquette State Park covering an area of 8,050 acres is located in Southwestern Jersey County, Illinois. Found in the confluence of the two famous rivers of the area, the Mississippi River and the Illinois River, the park holds the significance of being the largest state park in the area. 


A nature lover’s paradise with the climate of the area making it a unique experience for everyone, the breathtaking vistas of the Illinois River and its backwaters from various vantage points steal the show. Besides other recreational activities, the most compelling thing about this park is the hunting area and Fall scenic drives, adrenaline rushing, and breathtaking activities that you otherwise can’t experience in any other state park of the region. 


Mississippi Palisades State Park

Mississippi Palisades State Park - Illinois

Mississippi Palisades State Park

Located in Carroll County, Mississippi Palisades State Park lives just north of the town of Savanna. Touching the mouth of the Apple river while existing along the Mississippi River, the park is unique with mesmerizing caves, cliffs, and boulders.  


For anyone to hop on an adventurous outdoor experience, this park is an exquisite place with miles of trails and overlooks preserved in 2500 acres. Don’t forget to enjoy the most fascinating experience of rock climbing and camping while you’re at the giants!


Ferne Clyffe State Park

Ferne Clyffe State Park - Illinois

Ferne Clyffe State Park

Located near the village of Goreville in the Johnson County region of Illinois, Ferne Clyffe State Park is an enthralling location for geography lovers. With unique terrain of Limestone bluffs and cliff caves the experience of visiting is thrilling and entertaining, there are several seasonal waterfalls adding to the beauty of the area. 


An outstanding scenic spot with spectacular geology, rare plant species, and mild climate, the park is also home to wonderful recreational facilities. Wind through picturesque woods, hike to explore fascinating rock formations, or immerse in the wild vistas. Live in the moment at Ferne Clyffe State Park!


Cave-In-Rock State Park

Cave In Rock State Park - Illinois

Cave In Rock State Park

The park to hold the famous Cave-in-Rock, a landmark sitting atop the high bluffs overlooking the breathtaking Ohio River, is located in the town of Cave-in-Rock in Hardin County. 


With rock formations, cliff carvings, and limestone drills, the Cave-in-Rock state park is a natural splendor offering miles of hiking trails, water sports, and sightseeing opportunities in an interesting landscape full of mesmerizing sights


Enjoy your visits to each one of these outstanding Illinois State Parks during your Illinois State Park Adventure Challenge. Then save all the memories inside your Illinois State Parks Adventure Book.